The U.K. ‘nation of animal lovers’ myth

rabbit, hutch, eating

It is a long-held belief in the UK that we are a nation of animal lovers and this confidence is perpetuated by the media, our self-righteous selves and even the Government who in a recent report on animal welfare stated in the first line that: We have the best animal welfare in the world and we are a nation of animal lovers’. We tend to wallow in this self-professed accolade, never question it and for some inexplicable reason actually believe it, but this false sense of security is one of the reasons animal abuse continues unabated in the UK and is arguably on the increase.

Nation of animal lovers, Pug Puppy Face
They need more than love from us

It is a mind-set that needs to change, and we must take a long hard critical look at our animal keeping habits and the way we regulate pet ownership, otherwise any improvement is impossible. It has unfortunately become obvious to me during a forty-year career in the animal welfare industry that the status of animals and standards of care have not improved and have arguably worsened as we have only ever paid lip service to our claim of being a nation of animal lovers. In reality we are no more loving than any other.

What about the fact that we keep so many animals, were the first to have welfare laws, to set up animal charities and to spread animal welfare ideals around the world I hear you cry?

Well, the problem with this premise is that if we are such a country of animal lovers why do we have thousands of animal charities in the UK attempting to solve all the irresponsible ownership and so many laws to protect them. Surely, a civilised and well-regulated society such as ours, that respects and cares for its animals has no need for them, but there are more being established every week; and why are an estimated 10 million pets caused physical and mental stress each year; why are hundreds of thousands of unwanted pets treated as disposable items and discarded into animal charity re-cycling plants; why does the RSPCA receive over a million telephone calls and have to investigate 150,000 complaints of cruelty and why are our laws so ineffective and badly enforced?

We allow all this to happen because we are too busy labouring under the false impression that we are this nation of animal lovers to recognise that we have an endemic problem of uninformed and thoughtless animal ownership in the UK, which neither the charities or government are able  to combat because of misguided policies and a lack of resolution.

Author: John Brookland

John Brookland has been passionate about animals from an early age and has always been more concerned about their individual health and well-being than any scientific or zoological interest. During his long and varied career in animal welfare in the U.K. and worldwide, he has unfortunately witnessed most of the horrors of animal cruelty there is to see and has gained extensive insight into animal welfare issues. On leaving school he trained as an RSPCA clinic assistant in London and later was manager of one of their veterinary hospitals and an animal centre. He was Chief Inspector and manager of the Bahamas Humane Society in Nassau and spent time in Trinidad advising on a humane stray dog control service, before becoming a deputy manager and animal health inspector at Heathrow's Animal Quarantine Centre. He then travelled the world for a conservation group investigating the capture and transport of wildlife for the pet trade and was an honorary consultant to the IUCN and CITES. He is now retired and still travelling the world with his partner to view wildlife and wild places and writing a blog and books on animals.